RSN Fundraising Banner
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment

Davis writes: "In a strikingly different configuration, this new Occupy Movement imagines itself from the beginning as the broadest possible community of resistance - the 99%, as against the 1%. It is a movement arrayed from the outset against the most affluent sectors of society - big banks and financial institutions, corporate executives, whose pay is obscenely disproportionate to the earnings of the 99%. It seems to me that an issue such as the prison-industrial complex is already implicitly embraced by this congregation of the 99%."

Political and social activist Angela Davis. (photo: file)
Political and social activist Angela Davis. (photo: file)

The 99%: A Community of Resistance

By Angela Davis, Guardian UK

16 November 11

Angela Davis at Occupy Philadelphia, 28 October 11.

Occupy Wall Street: Take the Bull by the Horns

The Occupy movement's exhilarating potential lies in forging a unity that can make a new majority of the old minorities.

hen the Occupy Wall Street movement erupted on 17 September 2011, I happened to be reflecting on my remarks for the upcoming International Herbert Marcuse Society conference. By the time the conference convened on 27 October at the University of Pennsylvania, the encampment in Zuccotti Park was well-established and similar encampments had emerged in hundreds of communities around the country. On the opening day of the Marcuse conference, there were over 300 tents in the plaza outside Philadelphia city hall.

The organising theme of the conference - "Critical Refusals" - was originally designed to encourage us to reflect on the various ways Marcuse's philosophical theories push us in the direction of a critical political practice located outside the proper realm of philosophy, but nevertheless as anchored in philosophy as it is in a will to transform society.

So, while we were certainly prepared to ponder the connection between Marcuse's philosophical ideas and his association with the movements of the sixties, we were struck by the serendipitous affinity of the theme with the emergent Occupy movement. As presenters arrived in Philadelphia, we repeatedly expressed our enthusiasm about the confluence of the Wall Street and Philadelphia occupations and the conference theme, which seemed to us to emphatically enact the 21st-century relevance of Herbert Marcuse's work.

I don't know whether any of us could not have predicted that on the second day of the conference, the plenary audience of more than 1,000 would be so riveted by this historical conjuncture that almost all of us spontaneously joined a night march, which wended its way through the streets of Philadelphia toward the tents outside city hall. At the site, I reflected aloud - with the assistance of the human microphone - on the differences between the social movements with which we have become familiar over the last decades and this newly-grown community of resistance.

In the past, most movements have appealed to specific communities - workers, students, black people, Latinas/Latinos, women, LGBT communities, indigenous people - or they have crystallised around specific issues like war, the environment, food, water, Palestine, the prison industrial complex. In order to bring together people associated with those communities and movements, we have had to engage in difficult coalition-building processes, negotiating the recognition for which communities and issues inevitably strive.

In a strikingly different configuration, this new Occupy Movement imagines itself from the beginning as the broadest possible community of resistance - the 99%, as against the 1%. It is a movement arrayed from the outset against the most affluent sectors of society - big banks and financial institutions, corporate executives, whose pay is obscenely disproportionate to the earnings of the 99%. It seems to me that an issue such as the prison industrial complex is already implicitly embraced by this congregation of the 99%.

Indeed, it can be persuasively argued that the 99% should move to ameliorate the conditions of those who constitute the bottom tiers of this potential community of resistance - which would mean working on behalf of those who have suffered most from the tyranny of the 1%. There is a direct connection between the pauperising effect of global capitalism and the soaring rates of incarceration in the US. Decarceration and the eventual abolition of imprisonment as the primary mode of punishment can help us begin to revitalise our communities and to support education, healthcare, housing, hope, justice, creativity and freedom.

The Occupy activists and their supporters have brought us together as the 99%. They call upon the majority to stand up against the minority. The old minorities, in effect, are the new majority. There are major responsibilities attached to this decision to forge such an expansive community of resistance. We say no to Wall Street, to the big banks, to corporate executives making millions of dollars a year. We say no to student debt. We are learning also to say no to global capitalism and to the prison-industrial complex. And even as police in Portland, Oakland and now New York, move to force activists from their encampments, we say no to evictions and to police violence.

Occupy activists are thinking deeply about how we might incorporate opposition to racism, class exploitation, homophobia, xenophobia, ableism, violence done to the environment and transphobia into the resistance of the 99%. Of course, we must be prepared to challenge military occupation and war. And if we identify with the 99%, we will also have to learn how to imagine a new world, one where peace is not simply the absence of war, but rather, a creative refashioning of global social relations.

Thus, the most pressing question facing the Occupy activists is how to craft a unity that respects and celebrates the immense differences among the 99%. How can we learn how to come together? This is something those of the 99% who are living at Occupy sites can teach us all. How can we come together in a unity that is not simplistic and oppressive, but complex and emancipatory, recognising, in June Jordan's words that "we are the ones we have been waiting for." your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+24 # Rita Walpole Ague 2011-11-16 17:52
And, here's a huge ray of hope. An amazing number of vets gave cheers and thumbs up and yes, peace finger signs to the OWSer's and their Occupy signs which included references to ending endless war, the greed associated with oh so profitable for the 1%ers war, etc.

This was here at the Veteran's Day Parade in Colorado Springs, super conservative city, and super fusion center of the U.S.'s now over 72 fusion centers. Colo. Spgs., with its Northern Command Center, is the direction(s) giver, by and through the nation's now over 800,000 govt. operatives, of what local authorities should do, and how they should do it. This, tragic but true, includes how and when to tear gas, pepper spray, Taser, etc. peaceful protesers, (i.e. Occupy Wall Streeters, who they label as being 'terrorists', and, as such, police may torture if and when they please.

Humans do recognize evil - nothing new with that. And, fight against the evil we have, do, and will continue to do. This brings those with immense differences together, our longing and search for good (a.k.a. God) and rejection of evil, including but not limited to greed and power addiction.
+15 # fobsub 2011-11-16 18:45
The closer all of the 99% get to the economic bottom, the closer they will get to becoming as one mind in equality.
+21 # Vivelevin 2011-11-16 18:55
Angela Davis--a voice still resonant with a mix of hope and fervor. We are coming together and it is emancipatory. This revolution is about evolution...a move from Darwin's survival of the fittest (unbridled competition) to survival through cooperation. We are refusing to be labeled and put in a pigeon hole to differentiate us. This is a wide-angle photograph of all the colors, textures, and voices of humanity saying we can celebrate our differences and we will not stand for the sub-human treatment of anyone, nor will we live impoverished while a few rape us and the planet of its resources. Ultimately it is in the interest of the1% that the 99% prevail because if we don't take dramatic environmental measures to end global warming and reduce the entire world population, Mother Nature will take care of it through natural disasters. No amount of money will help at that point.
+3 # Travlinlight 2011-11-17 08:11
Yes, Vivelin, people are coming together, and it is emancipatory. Survival through cooperation, through an emergent recognition of a holistic human identity in which each sees him/herself in the other, this is what may be happening. I believe that all theories of social organization that stress cooperation and a recognition of common needs and goals are adumbrations of a transformed sense of self, a self that is identified with the cosmos, as Maslow and others have proposed. A full and general realiztion of that may be long distant, but it could be beginning now.
Let us hope so and work toward that realization
+12 # turtleislander 2011-11-16 19:49
Let me tell my story of corporate imbalance and unfairness. If you or I hit and injure someone in our car that we OWN there is no limit on our liability and we would be wiped out in some cases.
Several years ago I was hit, and lost my right leg, to a driver making an illegal turn in a rental car. The driver was a foreigner and the police let him go. The rental cat company - who is the OWNER of the car is protected by law to a maximum liability of $15 thousand dollars. That's how much a new leg costs. And I have had to pay for several over the years myself because - you guessed it - most insurance wont cover it in most states. So if the rental corporation is a person, shouldn't I have been able to recover the incalculable damages to my life, finances, and happiness?
+1 # Manecksha 2011-11-17 02:14
You certainly would. A solicitor
+5 # charsjcca 2011-11-16 21:03
In 1963 the Congress for Racial Equality sought to launch a boycott of holiday merchandising. They got no support. OWS must accomplish that goal as a unifying force if it is to succeed. A genuine national boycott of the mercantile system is required. If we do not buy products we will not have to worry about Exxon Mobil.
+4 # Polimorphus 2011-11-16 22:19
Yup. In the past, it was possible to address each dispossessed or oppressed minority AS a minority. If all such minorities get together - as they hopefully will - then the 99% will really be an effective 99% and each minority grouping will be impossible to ignore.
0 # carioca 2011-11-17 06:54
And once again we learn that the only major newspaper to speak up for the American people is in fact in Great Britain.
0 # RLF 2011-11-17 06:58
I'm not sure decarceration is the answer...We just need equal or greater incarceration for crimes that affect many more people. Violence and violent crime are terrible but the immense crimes perpetrated on the masses by the 1% are far worse and have been met with no incarceration. The message is steal a little, go to jail, steal a lot, go to the Hamptons and drink Crystal.
0 # Charles3000 2011-11-17 11:25
Angela Davis has some very important points and advice to us all. She is a very smart lady.

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.